Larry Nance

Report: Lakers trying to acquire another first-round pick

6 Comments

The Lakers, who have the Nos. 2 and 28 picks in the upcoming draft, were reportedly discussing trading the second pick.

What do they want?

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The Los Angeles Lakers are trying to acquire another first-round pick for Thursday’s NBA draft, league sources told ESPN.

The Lakers have engaged at least two teams in the lottery, sources said, as they search for players to improve their outside shooting and perimeter defense.

While there have been inquires on the No. 2 pick, sources said it remains unlikely the Lakers would trade out of that position.

Trading down from No. 2 with the Kings, who have the Nos. 5 and 10 picks, would be a relatively simple way to land an extra first-rounder. But, as Shelburne says, the Lakers don’t seem particularly keen on parting with the second pick.

The Lakers have a roster full of players new team president Magic Johnson didn’t acquire, a fact he made glaringly clear when he declared everyone but Brandon Ingram tradable. D'Angelo Russell or Julius Randle – and maybe even Jordan Clarkson or Larry Nance Jr. – could fetch a first-rounder and allow Johnson to choose a player he wants rather than inherits.

We’re past the days of big-market teams like the Lakers just buying first-round picks. The salary scale and team control makes first-rounders just too valuable. But the Lakers have ammo to acquire another first-rounder.

They must be mindful of Paul George – what assets, if any, they want to trade for him. If they don’t trade, they need a plan to open max cap space for him next summer.

As long as they keep that in mind, there are plenty of logical ways for the Lakers to add a first-rounder while keeping the second pick. It’ll just cost them one of the talented young players they already have.

D’Angelo Russell’s dedicates lucky-bounce game winning three to grandmother who died (VIDEO)

11 Comments

LOS ANGELES — D'Angelo Russell almost didn’t play on Sunday night for the Lakers. His grandmother had passed away in Louisville, and when Russell found out Sunday morning he said he looked into booking a flight and going to be with family, but he couldn’t make the flight today so decided to play Sunday and fly out Monday.

The Lakers are happy he was there.

Russell drained a game-winning three that fell through the rim on a bounce just as time expired, giving the Lakers the win, 110-109. After the shot fell Russell ran over to hug his family. Russell said he dedicated the shot to his grandma.

“I knew (playing was) what my grandma would have wanted,” Russell said. “My dad, brothers, and everyone wanted me to play. I wanted to get away from basketball. I didn’t want to express myself through basketball but it was the only option I had and I tried to take advantage of it.”

“I get goosebumps even talking about the way the game ended,” coach Luke Walton said. “How awesome for him on such a tough day where obviously basketball is nothing in the big picture of what he’s dealing with.”

There’s a lot to unpack in this play.

Ricky Rubio has been fantastic since the All-Star break, but he had a rough night against the Lakers (after setting his career high in points the last time they played), and that included getting stuffed by Larry Nance Jr. on an off-balance layup. Andrew Wiggins (41 points) and Karl-Anthony Towns (40 points) had the hot hands, they needed to get the rock here.

Metta World Peace got a clean look at a potential game-winner from the corner first but missed it. The best part of this, watch his leg shake as he hesitates and lines up the shot. Jordan Clarkson said the team gave MWP a hard time about that in the locker room after the game.

Julius Randle chased down the odd-bounce rebounds off MWP’s miss. If you wanted to see Tom Thibodeau’s blood pressure rise postgame, all you had to do was him about the handful of offensive rebounds the Timberwolves gave up late. He said Minnesota got what it deserved in this game the way they rebounded and came out flat.

• Three Timberwolves defenders were crowded around Randle — shooting 27.9 percent from three this season — and left open Russell, shooting 35.4 percent from deep this season.

• That’s as lucky a bounce as you are going to see. Maybe grandma gave that one a little tip.

Watch Dirk Nowitzki surpass 30,000 points, join Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant

1 Comment

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki is a future Hall of Famer. He’s also now a member of an exclusive club that includes Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

On Tuesday night, playing against the Los Angeles Lakers, Nowitzki surpassed 30,000 points scored in the NBA.

The big shot came early in the second quarter in Dallas, with Nowtizki on the right wing on a post up. Dirk went with his signature leg kick step back fadeaway over Larry Nance Jr., which set the American Airlines Center on fire.

The view from inside the AAC was pretty neat:

It was a great moment with Nowitzki, and as the ESPN cameras moved around the crowd it settled on Nowitzki’s famed coach and friend, Holger Geschwindner. Geschwindner could be seen tearing up as Dallas celebrated Nowitzki’s accomplishment:

Former and current NBAers — including LeBron Jamesshowed their appreciation for Nowitzki on Twitter after the basket hit the nylon.

Congratulations to Dirk and Mavericks fans.

Breaking down NBA trade deadline winners, losers: Good week for Pelicans, Raptors

4 Comments

Drama, there was plenty of that. Rumors? Check. Hype? An overdose of it.

But actual trades, there were not a lot of those at the NBA trade deadline, like most years. And also like most years, there were few real game changers — while a big name or two changed teams, did anyone move into contention? Not sold that happened.

Still, there were winners and losers. And it’s time to break them all down.

Here are my top three winners and losers.

WINNERS:

New Orleans Pelicans. A small market team that fell into one franchise cornerstone star fell into another one Sunday because the Sacramento Kings wanted to move DeMarcus Cousins fast, before the owner changed his mind again, and said team seems to have a difficult-to-explain fascination with Buddy Hield. Now with Cousins and Anthony Davis, the Pelicans have potentially the best frontcourt in the NBA. (I say potentially because we need to see them actually play for a while before making declarations.)

There’s still work to do in New Orleans — re-sign Jrue Holiday this summer, get more shooting, find a wing defender —  but this team is in position to make a playoff push this season, then be much more of a threat next season. The hardest part of assembling a great team is getting the superstars because there is a limited supply. The Pelicans have two of them. Now we see what they do with it, but this is great news for a small market team that can struggle to get attention in football country. People will be watching now.

Toronto Raptors. Heading into the run-up to the trade deadline, their weak spot was the four, plus they needed to get more defense.

Then over the course of a week, the Raptors added Serge Ibaka and on deadline day P.J. Tucker in a fantastic trade. While Boston can sit back with those two Brooklyn picks and say the future is a few years from now, the Raptors can’t — their window is now. Ibaka isn’t the All-Star, borderline Defensive Player of the Year anymore, he doesn’t move like that guy now, but he’s still a huge upgrade over what they had. Tucker is the kind of physical defender Toronto needs in the postseason. I’m not sold the Raptors stand a chance against a healthy Cavaliers team, but their moves may have moved them back up to being the second best team in the East — now they need to make up the two games on the Wizards and move back up to the three seed in the East. They don’t want to be the four seed and get Cleveland in the second round.

Dallas Mavericks. They have been looking for their next Tyson Chandler for a while. They thought they had that and more a couple of years ago before DeAndre Jordan had a change of heart. Now they got their guyNerlens Noel. He could be an anchor for a decade, and the Mavs gave up only Justin Anderson (a potentially nice “3&D” player), Andrew Bogut (who the Sixers will waive), and what was billed as a first-round pick but is top 18 protected this year so it will revert to two second rounders.

There are reasons for concern for Dallas — Noel has a worrying injury history, a limited offensive game (but he stays in his lane), and the fact he’s likely going to get  a contract in the $100 million range this summer — but it was still a smart roll of the dice for Cuban’s team. Noel could be the center of the future, paired with Harrison Barnes for years as they Mavs rebuild in a post-Dirk era.

Honorable mention: Houston Rockets, Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel.

LOSERS:

DeMarcus Cousins. There are 30 million reasons Cousins ends up on this side of the list. There may well be positives for him — he got out of dysfunctional Sacramento, he gets to play with a star in Anthony Davis, he can reset the narrative on his career — but he still lost out on $30 million because he will not get the designated player contract. It’s through no fault of his own, and his agent tried to prevent the move, but in the end Cousins lost out on a lot of cash when he got traded.

Sacramento Kings. Like everything with Sacramento, the trade of Cousins just didn’t feel thought out. In the least. It’s not moving on from Cousins that I’m questioning — that is a defendable action both in terms of on-court results and upcoming costs — but the execution of it. Forget that going back as far as couple years ago before the 2015 draft there were much better offers available — the Lakers offered both their first round picks, which became D'Angelo Russell and Larry Nance Jr., plus other parts — even now there were other teams that wanted in on the bidding and were never called. They were settled on Buddy Heild, who they like more than anyone else in the league, and wanted to move quickly before owner Vivek Ranadive changed his mind again. Maybe the Pelicans’ offer was the best one on the table right now, but better run franchises find ways to get more out of big deals because they don’t feel rushed.

Philadelphia 76ers. GM Bryan Colangelo misread the market on big men, and it hurt the Sixers come the trade deadline. He had the chance to move Jahlil Okafor — the guy the Sixers preferred to move at the deadline — for better offers last summer. Same with Noel. But Colangelo waited too long to make his move, waiting for a better offer (and to see if Noel and Joel Embiid could play together), to the point that he had to trade Noel and get back just a couple of second round picks and a potential 3&D wing who couldn’t get into Rick Carlisle’s rotation in Dallas.

Bottom line, Philly traded their better availble big man for too little, and still have the guy they didn’t want on their roster. That’s not a good day.

Honorable mention: New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers (two teams that stood pat because they couldn’t make the move they needed — which is better than bad move, but not good).

Lakers name Magic Johnson President of Basketball Operations

22 Comments

Magic Johnson essentially publicly anointed himself in charge of the Lakers’ front office.

Now, the Lakers are actually giving him the job.

Lakers release:

Los Angeles Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss announced today that the team has named Earvin “Magic” Johnson as President of Basketball Operations. In addition, General Manager Mitch Kupchak has been relieved of his duties, effective immediately. Furthermore, Jim Buss will no longer hold his role as Lakers Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.

“Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” Jeanie Buss said. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

“It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family,” said Earvin “Magic” Johnson. “Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”

Jeanie Buss added, “I took these actions today to achieve one goal: Everyone associated with the Lakers will now be pulling in the same direction, the direction established by Earvin and myself. We are determined to get back to competing to win NBA championships again.”

Regarding Mitch Kupchak, Jeanie Buss stated, “We are grateful for the many contributions Mitch has made to the Lakers over the years and we wish him all the best.”

With regard to fellow owner and brother, Jim Buss, Ms. Buss said, “Jim loves the Lakers. Although he will no longer be responsible for basketball personnel decisions, he is an owner of this team and we share the same goal: returning the Lakers to the level of greatness our father demanded. Our fans deserve no less.”

In addition to the changes made within the basketball department, the Lakers also announced they have parted ways with John Black who had been the Lakers Vice President of Public Relations. Chief Operating Officer Tim Harris will immediately begin a search for a replacement. Jeanie Buss added, “We thank John for his many years of service.”

This closes an ugly chapter in which Jeannie Buss named Johnson as an advisor, and then he went about publicly trashing Jim Buss and Kupchack while evaluating them for her and clamoring for their front-office power.

Now, the real work begins. And that doesn’t mean calling Kobe Bryant.

Johnson inherits a team with plenty of young talent: D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Ivica Zubac. That’s a great starting point.

But the Lakers also face significant hurdles back to the top.

They lose their 2017 and 2019 first-round picks if their 2017 first-round pick doesn’t land in the top three. The Lakers have the NBA’s third-worst record. In the past, Johnson has expressed an affinity for tanking.

The Lakers also have the burdensome contracts of Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov. Those make it tough to clear cap space to sign a star.

At least they can trade Lou Williams, who’s having a special season. The deadline is Thursday, so Johnson must hit the ground running.

These conditions are the effects of Jim Buss’ misguided pledge to jolt the Lakers back to contending. Their shortsighted moves and even bigger dreams backfired so spectacularly, they backed into several high draft picks — and at least chose well. While Kupchak’s overall tenure was positive, his approach had grown stale.

The Lakers needed a change in management. I’m just not convinced Johnson was the solution.

Would they have hired him if he didn’t play for them? Probably not. Does his playing experience with the Lakers specifically, as opposed to any team, better prepare him for this job? Probably not.

But even if Johnson were hired for the wrong reasons, he can still succeed.

He thrived in business after retirement by putting the right people around him, and he can do that here. Johnson obviously knows basketball, but managing a roster and all the salary-cap complexities is a different animal. He needs staff, including a general manager, more familiar with that.

Johnson will be the franchise’s new smiling face. But, for this to truly work, Johnson will have to build a winner the old-fashioned way: With savvy drafting, trading and signing.